Tag Archives: Mathias B. Freese

Mathias B. Freese Author – Sanitizing Wernher  von Braun & Reviews of work

Sanitizing Wernher  von Braun

I advocate that the Wernher von Braun Center be renamed. Perhaps call it the Goring Complex, since Braun and Goring were members of the Nazi party. Goring’s Luftwaffe rained down death over Europe and Braun launched over 9,521 Cruise-like missiles to England, beginning on 13 June 1944. Braun’s membership in the Nazi Party is dated 12 November 1937 and his membership number is 5,730,692. If you need to reference this, use Wikipedia for basic facts. Or, if you require a more substantial historical source, any major work on the rise of Nazism will suffice. The English historian Sir Ian Kershaw is a reputable scholar of note on the period.

As a child of the Fifties I dimly recall von Braun with his affable Mr. Rogers panache, Germans label it gemuttlichkeit, on the Dave Garroway show getting all worked up explaining his proposed space station. There is a photo at the time of Disney and Braun, both in good spirits, enthusiasts. Braun was irresistible; that as a rocket scientist he built his V1 andV2 rockets (V for vengeance in German) at a slave labor camp on the Baltic Sea, Peenenunde, is washed over. The great German artist Kiefer has called such things a “conspiracy of silence.” In Operation Paper Clip the American government brought over Nazi scientists (the operative word is Nazi) to advance our rocketry and compete against the Russkies. The Russians took a helping of Nazi scientists as well. All societies, one philosopher has written, are essentially corrupt.

When I ride past the Braun Center on my way to Huntsville and read the bold letters of the center, I feel much like any black person seeing the Confederate flag beating against a post. I feel debased, forgotten, caught in a web of indifference. We speak of Holocaust deniers, yet those of us who are thoughtful and honorable citizens cannot widen their perspective to see that the von Braun Center as named is one consequence of Holocaust denial. Good people desecrate other good people by honoring a Nazi. I will say it for you – it is an abomination.

Indifference and moral sloth sustain Wernher von Braun in the minds of the Huntsville community. I am sure his memory and “good deeds” are reminiscent of Il Duce who made the trains run on time. What he has done for the citizens, fame and fortune, keep him a cherished personage. He is our “good Nazi.” Pick up a brochure in the center and you will find his past expunged or grossly mitigated. We call this collusion. This is the classic – historic – stance of the herd, always has been.

Having read considerably about von Braun and his vicious Nazi brother, Magnus von Braun, a chemical engineer who died peacefully in Arizona, Wernher expressed remarkable obliviousness to the slave workers who he viewed with total indifference. For they were objects in his mind; he was a base opportunist. Making his way to our country with the help of our government, he merchandised his scientific wizardry in a such a way the community absorbed him as one of its own. I suppose you might say he was a good immigrant. Huntsville metabolized him.

When I arrived two years ago to Alabama and observed my first Passover at Temple B’Nai Sholom in Huntsville, I noticed a police car stationed at the front door. Curious, I asked a woman congregant about that. She answered with an ancient tribal shrug which telegraphed 56 centuries of recorded history and I knew what she meant. Given my history, I would have situated Jewish men about the temple. I have less fear as an American Jew –that is why we are here. I also subscribe to the wise adage that if you forget you are a Jew, the world will remind you of it.

And when Easter arrives this year will you have police cars in front of your churches just in case?

My uncle was in the Battle of the Bulge, a sergeant and meted out swift justice to the SS he came across in the last days of the war. Awarded the Bronze Star, he knew who he was. My family has served in WW11 and Korea. And as for the role of Jews in the South, Jews fought for the Confederacy and Jews were in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis. Judah P. Benjamin, a fascinating character, served as both Secretary of State and Secretary of War. Col. Myers, a Jew, was the Quartermaster General of the Confederacy. And at the Nazi march at Charlottesville, I would know who to side with, Mr. President.

The Wernher von Braun Center is offensive to all of us. A toxic reminder of a Nazi who mingled, associated and appreciated Nazism, Alabaman Jews find it repugnant, insufferable, as I do.

In all his books, Elie Wiesel cautions us against indifference as he finds it pernicious and allows such men as von Braun to avoid condemnation, for he is beyond redemption, thousands suffered and died so he could make his tinker toys. Recently I’ve been informed that on his gravesite there is a marker with a biblical quotation that von Braun favored. Yes, to the end, the ever evangelistic and purveyor of things over men and women, goes boldly where no man has ever gone before (Did he know that Shatner and Nimoy were Jews?).

This anecdote of the first English Jewish Prime Minister, Disraeli, might serve as a coda. In Parliament a representative from Ireland rained down anti-Semitic abuse upon Disraeli. Why? No real reason; anti-Semitism is like mold, always in the air. Nevertheless, Disraeli kept still and when the representative had his say, he replied.

“Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of Right Honorable Gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF THE I TETRALOGY AND I …

Never begin a sentence with “well.” [a writer should break rules.]Well, writing, for me, was characterological. It was a consequence of a repressed and depressed childhood and adulthood. It was the spume of a discontented and directionless youth, of misspent energies and unclear goals. It was the product of an outer directed self. Aimless, un-fathered and un-mothered, I was benign neglect incarnate. There is much truth in the adage that we grow old too soon and smart too late.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

All of my books are not inspired; they are made from moving trends in my own personal reflections. When my thoughts founder upon a reef, I take the wreckage and begin to make order from disorder. A writer shapes experience. This book is a second memoir; the first was youth and young adulthood, lunacy, foolishness and recklessness; a land of mischief and misbehavior. The second memoir is more reflective, an older man’s thoughts, hopefully wiser, perhaps not; we are all fools until the day we die.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

In my memoir I carry on an imaginary conversation with Thoreau; however, he says nothing as I speak to him about the issues of my life. I keep Thoreau silent, for the questions I ask and the answers I get are solely of my own creation. The latent message of this literary conceit is awareness, or the awakening of intelligence, to cite Krishnamurti. Thoreau, as I see him, was consumed by the meaning of experience, of how to live an aware existence. In many ways he was a scold, hectoring us, berating us, pushing and shoving us into assessing what we are doing as human lives from moment to moment. I have been obsessed, if that is the word, with understanding who I am, and how to deal with existence since a young man. And so my affinity for Thoreau. This is an old man’s memoir filled with a young man’s ardor and exuberance.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I am free. [“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”—Kazantzakis] I took an arrow from my quiver and it read memoir and I tried this genre free of whatever memoirs are supposed to be.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

All the characters in my stories and essays and novel and memoirs emanate from me., at the very least are projections of myself. The essential questions I ask are ones of meaning, intention and purpose in life. In the last essay of my memoir I ask all the questions I have ever asked of myself to an imaginary Thoreau. I would hope the reader attaches his kite to mine and sets flight.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I am not interested in my readership. I have deconditioned myself from that. I have no interest in twitter and all the rest. I try to get my books reviewed or seen without going nuts over it. I write for my pleasure, to divine who I am. I write for no one else. To write for others is a kind of emptiness, or outer-directedness. Who said I had to have readers? Who said I have to be read? What is it I want is all that matters. I sell a smattering of books and engage a few people in literary discussion such as this piece, but that is all. I march to a different drummer.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Advice is generally used or secondhand; use it sparingly. It must always be questioned. With that caveat, I’ll say the following. Constantly reference yourself; look up quaquaversal which appears in my memoir. It is the source from which other things emanate. Trust yourself. Techniques can be learned and schools can teach that; but since you are the last of your kind, and no one will be like you ever again, it’s best to discover all you can about yourself through mentors, philosophers, therapists and most importantly the awakening of intelligence. Continually decondition yourself of state, religion and authorities of any kind. When you are free, your writing will be a song.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I may have written my last book. I am not sure. I hear fragments in my mind that may turn out to be stories. To wit, “It is here. Oh my…Oh my….” Strikes me ominously. I’ll see. I have no future. I have the moment, so why waste time on a future tense.                                 

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau tells the Story of a New York City
man who becomes an Alabama man. Despite his radical migration to simpler

A Thought Provoking Journey of Self-Reflection, Author Anthony Avina

By Anthony Avina  

One of the most thought provoking memoirs in recent years challenges readers to examine not only the world around them but how they are living their lives in author Mathias B. Freese’s novel

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau. Here’s the full synopsis:   Freese wishes to share how and why he came to Harvest, Alabama (both literally and figuratively), to impart his existential impressions and concerns, and to leave his mark before he is gone.

This was one of the most unique and creative memoirs I’ve read in recent years. The story of the author’s journey in his later years in life allow us as readers to take the time to appreciate not only our own lives, but challenges us to think critically and take the time to find meaning in our lives. It does a marvelous job of using past life experiences, history, humor and classic pop culture reference  s to contemplate the current state of our world. From the rise of Donald Trump as the United States President and what it says about the mentality of the nation as a whole to the hours spent on subjects like religion and life views that end up dividing us when there’s no need for it, this book is a perfect read for anyone looking to find meaning and purpose.

Written almost like a diary entry or an actual conversation between the author and the philosopher Henry David Thoreau himself, this story exudes insight, psychology and honesty. It shows the power of hope in tumultuous times, while also showing the history of the world and the threat of being doomed to repeat it in our modern times. It’s as much a reflection on our society as it is on himself, and despite the title’s ominous overtones, this story is not one of loss and hopelessness but one of learning from our own pasts and finding the will to reflect on our lives and come to terms with it. It’s a story of love, loss and life itself, and deserves to be read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copies of And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese tod

Latest Review

Book Review: And Then I Am Gone-A Walk with Thoreau by Mathias B Freese

Posted by bookishjen in And Then I Am Gone, Baby Boomers, Book Reviews, Books, Culture, Faith, Family, Henry David Thoreau, Inspiration, Love, Marriage, Mathias B Freese, Memoirs, Mental Illness, New York city, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, Politics, Self-Help, Uncategorized, Walden Pond, Writing and-then-i-am-gone-book-cover-200×300

There is one thing people realize once they come to their “twilight” years. They have more of a past than a future. This is a time when they often take stock of their lives – good, the bad and the ugly. Writer, teacher and psychotherapist Mathias B. Freese is one these people, and now he shares his journey in his thoughtful memoir And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau.

Thoreau, of course is Henry David Thoreau author of the classic Walden Pond, which many of us probably read back in high school. For Freese, Thoreau is a muse who guides him during his journey of self-examination. Ultimately Freese is asking himself, not the cliché “What is the meaning of life?” but “What is the meaning of my life.”

And Then I Am Gone is divided into two parts. Part one sets up the tone for the book and provides several chapters focusing on moving to Alabama, finding happiness with Nina, a past love affair, his relationship with his children and his own childhood, his thoughts on Trump, writer Norman Mailer, the movie Citizen Kane, and Thoreau as therapy. Part two focuses on Freese’s new life in a new home, his journey with Thoreau and coming to grips with his own mortality.

Born and bred in New York City, Freese is a secular Jewish man now living in Alabama with his southern belle, Nina, an Irish-American Roman Catholic. Not surprisingly, Freese finds country life below the Mason-Dixon line a complete cultural shock and often has difficulty navigating a world so different from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, it does force him to come to grips with his past. Freese has had success with his professional life, but his personal life was often in shambles. Childhood was difficult with a mother suffering with mental illness. Freese has been married and divorced a few times, and is also estranged from his daughter but is closer to his son Jordan.

Okay, Thoreau. Just what is life all about, hmm? Freese wants to know, You wrote a damn book about it. Surely you’ve got the goods. Now pony up!

Freese has questions and Thoreau provides answers, which often leads to Freese having more questions. Needless, say this can be quite maddening, which often leaves Freese feeling downright pessimistic.

But as I kept reading And Then I Am Gone, I thought to myself. Well, maybe we’re not always meant to have all the answers to our questions after we ask them, whether we ask Thoreau, our best friend, a therapist, our horoscope or a stranger on the street. At times those answers will leave us not exactly happy or more confused than before. Or sometimes we will find clear, concise advice or wise counsel in a time of confusion (especially in one of the most messed times in our nation’s history).

I found Freese’s book to be a true inspiration as I go through my own journey of self-exploration and after year of great difficulty, self-care. There are times I look for answers and feel nothing but despair and at times I feel true joy. We’re not supposed to solve the mysteries life and just accept things are going to be murky. At times we live life to the fullest and at times we are slackers on the couch. we should just live our lives the best we can before we are shuttled off this mortal coil.

I also appreciated Freese’s vivid style of writing. He can be a curmudgeon but he’s also wise, funny, a true storyteller. And Then I Am Gone is a treasure of a book.

Now if only I had kept that copy of Walden’s Pond….

Review by Udita Banerjee
BOOK TOUR REVIEW by A.E ALBERT
40/150 “Sunflowers” Sarah Rishel
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Mathias B. Freese Author- I TRULY LAMENT: WORKING THROUGH THE HOLOCAUST

      I TRULY LAMENT: WORKING THROUGH THE HOLOCAUST

by Mathias B. Freese

“One might call I Truly Lament a monstrous achievement.” – Duff Brenna, novelist, Professor Emeritus, CSU San Marcos

      Ordering information, cover and endorsements are at this publisher’s link: http://www.wheatmark.com/catalog/entry/I-Truly-Lament

An astute historian of the Holocaust observed that it is much like a train wreck, survivors wandering about in a daze, sense and understanding, for the moment, absent.   No comprehensive rational order in sight.

      I Truly Lament—Working Through the Holocaust is a varied collection of stories: inmates in death camps; survivors of these camps; disenchanted Golems complaining about their designated rounds; Holocaust deniers and their ravings; collectors of Hitler curiosa (only recently a few linens from Hitler’s bedroom suite went up for sale!);  an imagined interview with Eva Braun during her last days in the Berlin bunker; a Nazi camp doctor subtly denying his complicity; and the love story of a Hungarian cantor, among others.

A description meant to entice booksellers, librarians, reviewers and readers might be this: A weirdly wonderful short story collection exploring the Holocaust from diverse perspectives in literary styles ranging from gothic and romantic to phantasmagoric.

Moreover, this book in manuscript form was chosen as one of three finalists in the 2012 Leapfrog Fiction Contest. It was selected from out of 424 manuscripts.

MyMr. Freese’s  This Mobius Strip of Ifs, a collection of essays, was the winner of the 2012 National Indie Excellence Book Award for autobiography/memoirs, nonfiction as well as one of five finalists for the same category, Global Ebooks Awards.

Author of The i Tetralogy (Wheatmark, 2006), a Holocaust novel, winner of the Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award 2007, and Down to a Sunless Sea (Wheatmark, 2007), a collection of short fiction, Indie Excellence Finalist Book Awards, Mr. Freeze is a retired psychotherapist and teacher.

Mathias B. Freese (www.mathiasbfreese.com)

 

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David Fraser Author- Review THIS MOBIUS STRIP OF IFs by Mathias B. Freese

David Fraser Author- Review THIS MOBIUS STRIP OF IFs by Mathias B. Freese

ISBN: 978-1-60494-723-6
Wheatmark Press
164 Pages

THIS MOBIUS STRIP OF IFs, a collection that is part memoir, part essay, evolves in the reading into a philosophical treatise on how to live life with awareness and inner freedom. Mathias B. Freese uses the möbius strip as a metaphor for unknown possibilities and he rants, philosophizes and reminiscences on many parts of his life—his upbringing, his careers as teacher, therapist and writer and also as a son, father, and spouse who has experienced his fair share of tragedy.

Many of us growing up in the aftermath of the Second World War, being in the first wave of the baby boomers have experienced much of what Freese speaks about. This writer certainly has and he to has worked in the teaching profession and has been a writer all his life. Freese speaks of having to struggle, to persevere, of being a sensitive child, ill-nurtured by his parents, of being conditioned to conform through schooling. He sees himself as an outsider with a tragic sense of life but still remains optimistic that things can change.

Whether he is ranting about blogger critics, reflecting on the Holocaust, remembering old movies and movie stars such as Buster Keaton and Peter Lorrie, railing against the conspiracies of schooling, and the state of the human condition or sinking into deep personal familial pain, his themes (personal discontent, questioning authority, pain, the question of existence, the struggle, the stumbling, recovering and stumbling again, the endurance, perseverance, and the reaching and going beyond what one is) are replayed and reworked so that by the time you have digested the collection, you come upon the broad sweeping statement of who is Mathias B. Freese and he is in many ways like all of us if we are examining our lives rather than sleep walking. Although this reviewer has a different set of memories, and different pathways to the future, much of what is said resonates. There are moral, philosophical and spiritual truths to be gleaned.

Freese says “The anonymous soul does not need his or her fifteen minutes of fame.” Interesting that one of his earliest writing successes came in a publication of a short story anthologized in The Best American Short Stories of 1975, but was unfortunately attributed to another writer. Freese didn’t receive those fifteen minutes of fame but he says, “it is my very anonymity (thank you Ms. Foley) that I can remain steadfast, honest and true.”

At 67 he questions what it is he wants from aging and like many his age, ponders and questions more spiritual and philosophical things, while seizing the day as time flies. In an essay “Untidy Lives, I Say to Myself”, he comes to realize that the untidy lives of the aimless creatures of humanity are messy and without purpose. The search for meaning for him may not be the question but rather it is sufficient “just to be” and to be in the flow of it all, profoundly awake as Krishnamurti says.

In a couple of essays on his teaching experiences and the state of American schooling, he becomes quite vitriolic, and rightly so, for much of American schooling, (not teaching; there is a difference) is profoundly flawed. He rants against the industrial, factory model of education that certainly came into being after WW2 and has persisted despite much proven psychological research into what “learning” is. He laments the situation where students “are asleep in life”, where a teacher is “fated to fill up rather than draw them out.” He sees schooling as internal conditioning where individuals learn to “fit in, adjust, adapt, go to college, and go to work,” leaving school as “a fixture of society.”

In speaking about therapy he picks up similar themes. “Some of us move through life in sloppy fashion, never fully dressed for the occasion.” He sees individuals in society as “obsessed with peripherals and false needs.” It is ironic that we are so focused on financial matters that we neglect the psychological, spiritual and emotional needs within our lives. Studies have found that it is the inherent actions of parents, what they do, not whether they read to their children every night, or hover over them as they do their homework, or how much money they lavish on their children, that determines what those children do with their future lives. Many of us are struck by what our children have absorbed from us by our very own actions in daily life as they were growing up. Freese says, “Perhaps the best inheritance you can give to close ones is the way in which you lived, as opposed to how well you saved and planned.” This reviewer’s parents frugally scrimped and saved after having lived through the depression and the Second World War and the depressed state of Britain for ten years after that war, and he would have rather had a different kind of inheritance, one more grounded in spirituality and emotion, one that was denied him and them, because they felt all they could do was survive.

In “Personal Posturings: Yahoos and Bloggers”, Freese rants about blog critics who posture and pretend to be educated and well-read. He amusingly sees them as “Costco customers rummaging through jeans or sneakers.” One can identify here. A book review should only be written to enhance and further the book. Why write a bad review? If a book is bad, then silence should tell the tale. Why clutter up the internet or waste ink?

Freese writes about the Holocaust but also writes about the small “h” holocaust that he considers he experienced growing up. What resonates is worth noting for all of us is that one goal for each of us, can be “to arrive at self-awareness free of society’s mores, religious injunctions, and personal fears.” He concludes that “The bravest of us all are those who do not need systems—fascism, to wit—not religions or cults.” He sees religions as man-made straitjackets and in the context of the Holocaust and the “Never Again” cry that we, humans, have inside us an innate capacity for cruelty. And he comes to realize that “we should begin to help our children to see inwardly—psychologically, emotionally, perceptively, and intuitively—to see themselves clearly as creatures capable of great wrath.” In “A Spousal Interview” Freese sees mankind as an “evolutionary misfit, or anomaly who is the same inside his skull as CroMagnon man. This seems so pessimistic, but he realistically says, “We need to examine our animal selves for what we can tame or domesticate and to learn what we cannot safely harness, such as war.” And he gives us good advice in such a world view. “If you want a measure of life in its existence, find love, find meaningful work; the rest is illusion.”

Freese talks about artists not being valued because they “show life in process, in action and in deed and this is always threatening.” In his more personal essays dealing with family members and tragedy, he returns to the struggles, the struggles of his daughter to endure and go on as she suffers from Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome and tells us how writing for her chisels out and defines who she is, just as in the myth of Sisyphus and his never-ending struggle defines him as well.

All in all, despite Mathias’ existentialism—“It is cold out there, comically cold; it is lonely out there, very lonely; and we have only choices to make, often tragic ones”—he leads us to some profound truths about how to live a life. He says “The glory of each day is in its being and for that I am joyous.” He advocates that we rummage for ourselves, analyze our lives, live in the moment, de-condition ourselves, be anarchist against conformity and above all struggle to chisel out and define who we really are. This book although deeply personal, is also an open-ended journey for learning to live with awareness and inner freedom.

Amazon

Mathias B. Freese is an award-winning essayist and author of THE i TETRALOGY, a fiction about the Holocaust which has garnered remarkable praise around the world (2007 Allbooks Editors Choice Award), the weight of his twenty-five years as a psychotherapist comes into play as he demonstrates a vivid understanding — and compassion –toward the deviant and damaged.

David Fraser lives in Nanoose Bay. His poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Rocksalt, An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry. He has published four collections of poetry, most recently CAUGHT IN MY THROAT, and a book of poetry and poetics titled ON POETRY, with Naomi Beth Wakan. He is a member of the Canadian League of Poets and is currently the Regional Rep for the Islands for the Federation of BC Writers.

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Mathias B. Freese Author- THIS MOBIUS STRIP OF IFS

THIS MOBIUS STRIP OF IFS

by Mathias B. Freese

Paperback, 6×9 in, 186 pages
Wheatmark, February 15, 2012
ISBN: 9781604947236

“Each essay has something truly unique and heartwrenching…Readers will be entertained, challenged, and yes, shocked by some of the writings.”- Shirley A. Roe, editor, Allbooks Review

Description

In this impressive and varied collection of creative essays, Mathias B. Freese jousts with American culture. A mixture of the author’s reminiscences, insights, observations, and criticism, This Mobius Strip of Ifs examines the use and misuse of psychotherapy, childhood trauma, complicated family relationships, his frustration as a teacher, and the enduring value of tenaciously writing through it all.

Freese scathingly describes the conditioning society imposes upon artists and awakened souls. Whether writing about the spiritual teacher Krishnamurti, poet and novelist Nikos Kazantzakis, or film giants such as Orson Welles and Buster Keaton, the author skewers where he can and applauds those who refuse to compromise and conform.

The profound visceral truths in this book will speak to anyone who endeavors to be completely alive and aware.

About the Author

A psychotherapist for twenty-five years, Mathias B. Freese conveys a unique combination of psychodynamic thinking and Eastern philosophy while examining existentialism, alternative education, and Jewish values. His award-winning novel, THE i TETRALOGY, is a groundbreaking contribution to Holocaust literature. His short story collection, DOWN TO A SUNLESS SEA, was published in 2008.

Order from Wheatmark, Inc. 1760 E River Rd Ste 145, Tucson, AZ 85718 1-888-934-0888 x3 & Amazon.com

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Randy-author ponders envy

      Some people I known think metaphorically.   It is a gift, an enviable one, resulting in some of the finest writing.   In my mid-sixties now, I look up to writers like Matt Freese who are able to incorporate one metaphor after another in almost everything he writes.   I recommend a visit to Matt’s website at www.mathiasbfreese.com .

       It has taken me this long to develop the writing skills I have.   It feels like a lifetime; and yet it has gone by very quickly and now I’m towards the end of it all, when I’m counting on finally maturing and producing something of significance.   I ain’t finish yet; I tell myself that all the time.   And I also find myself wondering why I care so much when I’m setting myself up for a bumpy ride.   For one thing I don’t think metaphorically and in spite of that I want to be a good writer.   I personally have met and have known writers who are craftsman and who achieved their skills early in life.

      A writer like that who comes to mind  is Lawrence (Larry) Cheek.   My direct contact with Larry extends over a long period of time.   It was in Tucson that we knew each other; our wives are still close friends.   They now live in the Seattle area and only occasionally come to the southwest.   I wouldn’t describe Larry’s and my relationship as close.   We’ve never talked about writing.   I’m pretty sure he hasn’t read anything I have written.   It would be presumptuous of me to imply otherwise.   However, I admire his work immensely and would recommend anything he has written: I know he is a craftsman.   I’m again envious.   I have been.   And then again, why do I care so much.   I know our worlds are totally different.   Even though that’s true, maybe we’re linked by the process of writing; yet I know there’s no way to compare us, except by saying he’s better, which is putting myself down, something I know I shouldn’t do.   I’m really not very emotional about it.   I try to shield myself by remembering the positive feelings I get from writing.   I can congratulate myself for my tenacity.   I don’t know where my drive comes from but just because I have it doesn’t mean I can demand other people’s interest.

      Lawrence Cheek’s book THE YEAR OF THE BOAT BEAUTY, Imperfection, and The Art of Doing It Yourself has been released by Sasquatch Books in 2008.   Here is a short blurb about it.   www.lawrencecheek.com  “It began as a project to build a wooden sailboat in a suburban garage within a self-imposed deadline of one year.   But difficulties—both technical and emotional—made a shambles of the deadline, and Lawrence Cheek’s project to build a boat became an inquiry into the nature of beauty, a struggle with obsession and perfectionism, and finally a question of character.   The Year of the Boat is the story of how one man built a boat in spite of himself.”

Randy Ford 

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Randy-the impetus for the novel GOOD PEOPLE

      With nothing to do, pretending to be writing, I went to the opera every week; and I often walked around Vienna.   It was part of my routine when my wife and I lived there in the early seventies and, with time on my hands, I frequented cafes where I held lengthy conversations with the people I met.

       I remember one new-found friend, a happy-go-lucky fellow, who gave me insight about Vienna I otherwise wouldn’t have had.   A comment or two from him provided impetus for my novel GOOD PEOPLE, which I’m rewriting now thanks to Matt Freese.   (See previous blogs and comments).   My new friend from Vienna was sad and cynical when he talked about his city’s participation in the Holocaust.  

      The image that has stuck with me was one of springtime, with potted flowers everywhere, and people everywhere (grandparents and parents) sitting at their windows watching the SS round up and arrest their neighbors.   (“They were marched off and my grandparents did nothing,” or some other comment like that came from him.)   My friend was happy to express how unhappy he was about that. The history was his, but he gladly gave it to me.   I took it personally, and from that day until now I can see myself, like his grandparents, watching the SS drag my neighbors out of their homes, the point of my book. Bingo.

     Then the time came for me to write about it.   I had just read a book about ordinary people and their participation in the Holocaust.   (Shit, I’ve forgotten the name and author of the book and can’t find it.   Please, someone help.)   And from getting from there to now only took a comment or two. Only a brief encounter with a stranger in a café got me started on a project that will take me a year or more to complete: the young man who talked sadly and felt sad for his grandparents, his parents, and his country.   Some eight decades later I’m still working with the idea.   I was amazed with him and am amazed still that I’m still hooked.

      Enough for today, Randy Ford

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Randy – Writing “Good People”

Matt Freeze extended a challenge to me, and I accepted it…and it had to do with me again taking up my novel about the Holocaust and not giving up on it. The rough, over-extended manuscript remained untouched for many years; there was a sense I couldn’t do anything with it because I hadn’t stuck to the historical facts. So Matt Freeze, and thanks to you, here is my latest draft of the first chapter of GOOD PEOPLE. Rewriting it involved pruning, working from the back to the front, and reading each sentence over and over again. Feel free to tear it apart. Good night, Randy Ford

GOOD PEOPLE By Randy Ford Chapter One

From the Redoutensaal Ballroom, the two brothers stumbled into Josefs Platz, dazzled by everything, melodies, women, and the joy and pleasure of dancing all night. Again they had forgotten their troubles, sang until they were hoarse, and yes, drank until they were drunk. And it was Johann Strauss who made the evening, the king of the waltz, through whose music they could still escape the ominous call for one Fuhrer.

The mood inside had been light and loose. The music flowed freely like the wine. The scent, the smiles, the quest for virgins kept them hoping for a little more. Did their hearts leap? Yes. ‘Keep smiling, Frauline.’

“Great, Karl. It really was great.”

Only through teasing could the two brothers be honest.

“You’re too serious,” teased Niki, as they strolled toward Michaeter Platz.

“Get you! Who proposed! You not me!” proclaimed Karl. Niki’s flirting and charm had gotten him in trouble. “Propose? Not me! You must take me for an honorable man. Yes, a nice guy. Instead, I offered her papa’s tickler.”

Karl pretended indifference and expressed his dissatisfaction with life. “The common man can’t stick his ass outdoors. It costs too much,” he blurted out. “You must economize. But it doesn’t matter. When isn’t there inflation? Inflation or deflation? Who’s to blame? Hey, what about those communist? Nazis? We’ve lost everything, brother. Blamed it on the Fohn, the wind.

“Yes, yes, blame it all on the Fohn.”

“Niki, Niki Hertzel, never forget me, always, always remember this night. Our father knows one of us has to leave.”

“No, Karl! Instead talk about the economy. Preach about it.” “Where is your gratitude?”

“Gratitude be damn!”

“Niki, the ungrateful son.”

“I’m grateful as long as he gives us money, but you don’t have to worry. You’re going away to America the beautiful!

“Shit, not so loud.”

“Indeed, you’re a lucky man.”

“Should I jump on my hat or simply shrug?”

“Will you really marry that bitch?”

For some time, Karl and Niki didn’t see the rally.

“No whore is worth it!”

Both brothers ignored the mob.

“Give me a whore any day,ha, ha, ha!”

Later, they congratulated themselves for not getting seriously hurt.

“Jew!”

“What? We’re not Jews!”

“Gutter rats! Kneal!”

In the middle of Michaeter Platz, the brothers were grabbed by their shirts.

“Kneal!”

Their shirts were ripped. “No, no, no, no you don’t. Not our shirts. You don’t know who we are.” These words came from Niki.

“And we don’t care. You’re gutter rats; and rats are stepped on.” All this in Wien; above all, in Wien. “Don’t touch the shirt. Please don’t touch the shirt.” In vain Niki tried to save his shirt.

Their hell, and Wien’s, was there that night. “Easy now! Don’t want any trouble here.” This was Karl, as he got to his feet. “Didn’t you hear what we said? We don’t have a drop of Jewish blood in us. Our father is…” “Karl, don’t tell them. Let them find out when they’re hauled to court. And that will happen. I’ll see to it.”

“We’ve been dancing and whoring. Why spoil it?” Karl’s question barely left his lips before one of the thugs shouted, “Eine Volk, eine Reich, eine Fuhrer!”

“There you go, assuming we’re against you. We know where our bread and butter come from. Heil Hitler! Our Fuhrer he is, isn’t he?”

“Karl, shut up!”

Karl, however, becomes even more contemptuous and shouts “Eine Fuhrer! Horse shit!”

“Goddamn you Karl.”

“We’re not Jews, and they know it.”

“Ju-da verr-rrecke! Ju-da verr-rrecke!”

“God save Austria,” Karl countered.

“What did you say?”

“Listen hard. God save Austria.”

“Don’t! He’s drunk! Hit me instead.” Before someone could hit his brother, Karl threw a fist like a heavy weight boxer. Luckily, no one was killed. The police arrived in time with their billy clubs.

Afterward Karl and Niki sat alone on the curb in front the Michaelerkirche. “And why not? I saved your ass.”

“You did not. If there is an ass worth saving, it’s yours. And look what they did to your shirt.”

“I’ll never forget this night.”

“As long as I live. Never.”

“I wish you could see yourself,” said Niki. “Mercy, you look like you were pulverized with a licorice stick?”

Karl didn’t respond. “So you’re leaving tomorrow.”

“Forget about that. Let’s not ruin a perfect evening.”

With a full voice and sudden ecstasy, the younger brother sang Mozart’s “Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio!”

“Niki!”

“What?”

“Tonight I’ve seen the future. I see how God plans to unify the world by force. We’ve stumbled onto the moral pioneers of a new age and all you can do is sing your silly songs. Whether we like it or not, Europe is through! Piss on Hitler. I say piss on him!”

“Europe is through,” Niki repeated sadly. “We can’t build a fence around Austria.”

“They’re thugs. Hitler doesn’t stand a chance. So, piss on him. Wien was gay tonight but with a hint of agitation for she knows the lights will soon go out. Lots of women. Good shopping! Well, Niki, it’s up to you. While I’m gone, look after mother and dad.”

“But what could happen? With dad’s position with the court, nothing.”

“I know. They’ll have Eva. And mother, well, she’s mother. But curse you for leaving. Curse you.”

“I’m not ready. I wish I could tell dad that I am otherwise occupied. America is too far away. I wish we could all go together to America. But I’m Austrian.”

“We all are!”

“Heil Osterreich! Heil Osterreich! And curse those who support Hitler. Poor Austria.”

“You could refuse to go.”

“And just how far do you think I’d get with that? The crippled old fool.”

“Mother is behind it, you know.”

“Her highness always was.”

“The truth is she gave us pocket money to get rid of us.”

“And if it weren’t for Eva, we would’ve died from colds.” Karl sang with simple, solemn, gravity, “Voi che sapete.” Then Niki with a swift, dipping, soaring “Ardor of Non so piu.”

“How about Grinzing,” said Karl, “where we always had a great time?”

“I prefer Krugerstrasse.”

“No you don’t.” “Krugerstrasse is closer, Krugerstrasse, where we learned the lessons of life. Krugerstrasse, the best whores, choice, finest quality, housewives. You’re going to miss screwing housewives.”

“And they don’t have housewives in America?”

“Yes, I’m going to miss everything, especially you. Hey sweetie, yes you! How about it, sweetie,” Karl repeated “sweetie”, laughing; “and the likes of you I have never seen.”

“I never knew that my big brother could be so…so…” Niki’s words got caught in his throat. By his own account, he deserved a ribbing. “I say; trink mit mir, sing mit mir! Glucklick ist, wis vergisst,” sung Niki. “Tonight, Mesci, Mesci, Mesci! Remember the kissing and the wine and the song, the song and the dancing, which by jiminy lady luck brought us tonight sweet Adele. She might be short, but how young and fair.”

“And of course she was almost bare.” Niki howled at that. Then he looked his brother in the eye and warned him, “Karl, be careful. Be careful what you say. Besides, Hitler might not be so bad.”

“Sieg Heil!” Then instead of a prim salute, Karl shook his fist, with a busted knuckle, and replied, “Look at it this way: Hitler could be the one person who can give us something to cheer about.” His color grayed. His eyes grew moist, and he sprung to his feet. He never saw the congregation leaving Michaelerkirche, the former parish church of the court. Rather than cheer, he yelled, “Piss on Hitler!”

Niki grabbed Karl’s arm and directed him away. Then a thug, worshiper, ran toward the brothers. “Heil Hitler!” shouted the thug.

“Heil Hitler!” shouted Niki back. Karl mocked Eine Fuhrier through mimicry. Instead of returning a proper “Sieg Heil,” he raised his right arm, cocked the hand back, and twirled a couple of times. Luckily, he lost his balance, and slipped on the curb. Had he not then started hiccuping and singing “trink mit mir! sing mit mir! mesci, mesci,” the thug would’ve kicked him. Instead, with the wave of a hand and dismissing Karl as a drunk, he yelled, “Ah!” and walked off.

“Throw them a bone. Niki, it’s your turn to give them something. Forget it, it’s all over. No one likes to see German maidens raped.”

Anyone who chooses to can rip it apart.
Good night,
Randy Ford

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